Before I kick things off, I want to make it clear that this blog entry is not about bashing the Army. I loved my time in the Army and serving changed the trajectory of my life for the better. Since my blog, at the moment, is mainly about inclusion and diversity in the workplace, I felt it necessary to mention the experience I had where inclusion did not exist, Army Basic Combat Training (BCT). For those wondering, BCT is another way of saying, “Boot Camp.” And yes, the military is a workplace. You work with and around other people and get a paycheck.
During my BCT, I endured several weeks of being screamed at, having things explode around me, feeling homesick, etc. all while being pushed to the limit mentally and physically every single day! It was an experience I will never forget. It was the military; it was what I signed up for. Training America’s defense force SHOULD be difficult; I wouldn’t want it any other way. As it relates to my blog, however, it got me thinking! My wheels started spinning! Inclusion was not a ‘thing’ in BCT. Diversity, on the other hand, was alive and well! Every military company I was ever attached to was a big melting pot. It was fantastic! However, inclusion played hide-and-go-seek.
Sure, we were put in team-building scenarios and worked hard together, but that’s because we had no choice, it was a requirement. However, during downtime many guys kept to themselves and hardly communicated with anyone. Were they homesick? Maybe. Were they scared? Probably. Were they depressed? Possibly. But more often than not, nobody asked them. It was not required. In fact, I recall one guy being sent home due to suicidal tendencies. To this day, I feel bad about that. Maybe if I, or anyone else, had made him feel more included, he would have made it through the training.
Some current and former service members may not agree with this post; they may think their initial training had a lot of inclusion. That’s ok, they’re not wrong, but neither am I. Everyone’s perspective varies based on individual experiences. What I do know is classroom time in BCT did not touch on inclusion. Yes, we spent hours in the classroom too. We learned about the history of the Army, relations with other countries, and how our weapons functioned, to name a few topics. But in all honesty, I do not recall any lectures on the significance of making everyone feel included. In hindsight, that would’ve been an excellent environment to do so, but it didn’t happen.
Keep in mind, I was in BCT in 2001, so maybe things have changed since then. If they have, then I stand corrected, but it won’t change what I experienced. To further strengthen my theory, I reached out to two former Soldiers who were in my exact BCT class. Thanks to Facebook, we were able to reconnect. They agreed with me 100%. As one guy said, “Forcing inclusion would be considered soft in an Alpha-male/female environment.” Sad but true. The other guy said, “BCT was every man for himself, only the strong survived.” again, sad but true.
It is safe to say that my blog will not change how the United States Armed Forces conduct initial training. I am NOT that important, and I can live with that. Regardless, with over one million people currently serving, it would be nice to know that inclusion is, or was, a part of their classroom training. After all, most of them will be entering the same workforce you are in after their military service. An appreciation for inclusion would be a welcoming trait.
It is no secret that service members commit suicide at unfortunate rates every year. A recent study by the Military Suicide Research Consortium (MSRC), revealed that Soldiers who tried to commit suicide did so because of a desire to end intense emotional distress (link below). Could a lack of inclusion be a part of that emotional distress? I do not know, but since feelings of loneliness and homesickness are common in the military, a lack of inclusion could magnify those feelings. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt to commence further research on this topic.
Do me a huge favor. Please go hug someone you love!